Share & Connect
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reveals the results of an unprecedented investigation exposing more questionable test results in schools across America. Questioning whether the 2011 cheating scandal was unique to Atlanta Public Schools, the AJC found drastic swings in test scores that were considered virtually impossible in Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
Suspect test score changes were also identified in many other cities, which will appear in the report. This story is set to spark a national debate over the policy and integrity of standardized testing.
Evidence that suggests possible cheating – the same kind that led AJC reporters and state investigators to uncover widespread and systematic test score manipulation in Georgia – exists across America. In an unprecedented effort, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spent months gathering and analyzing data and conducting dozens of interviews.
“The implications of our findings are profound, and it’s hard to find a more important story to tell,” AJC Editor Kevin Riley said. “This is about America’s future, and the integrity of standardized testing is central to the policy direction of American schools. Policies require states to test all students in grades 3 through 8 to measure performance in reading and math. Success in America’s schools is now defined by showing improvement in test scores. These results raise troubling questions about the reliability of these tests.”
To reach this conclusion, the AJC’s investigative team gathered data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The AJC analyzed test scores in more than 14,000 school districts — and verified the information through four separate independent academic experts.
In addition to Atlanta, the AJC found drastic swings in test scores that were considered virtually impossible in Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis. More than 100 school districts with highly improbable swings in test scores, a finding that strongly points to tampering.
Changes in test scores that were statistically improbable in nearly 20 cities, with swings in scores that were virtually impossible in about a half dozen. According to experts consulted by the AJC, human intervention is the most likely explanation.
In some cities, the AJC found so many dramatic shifts in scores that the odds of that happening by chance are virtually zero. In cities such as Houston, the results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year. The next year, when children moved to a new grade, their scores plummeted. Suspect scores were found in a few districts that have been hailed as cutting edge reformers.